Boys unharmed after getting stuck in the Open Cut in Lead

April 8, 2019

LEAD — Two 12-year-old boys are home safe and sound with their families after spending a harrowing night stuck inside the Open Cut, a remnant surface gold mining pit, in Lead over the weekend.

The Open Cut, surfact gold mining pit, is approximately 1,200 feet deep and half a mile wide. It’s surrounded by a tall fence in most areas marked with “no trespassing” signs.

Laura Morris and Alexandria Bledsoe, the boys’ mothers, explained that the boys had gone out hiking around the area behind their neighborhood in the Sunny Hill part of town Saturday evening.

“They’re 12-year-old boys who were wanting to explore,” Morris said. “That’s what people do out here, anyways, they explore; it’s so beautiful.”

Both families are new to the area, having moved from different parts of Texas last year.

The mothers explained that the two boys climbed into the Open Cut, to explore the pit. When they attempted to climb back out, the wet ground gave way, and the boys tumbled down three layers into the cut and were separated 25 feet apart from each other. Luckily, Bledsoe’s son had a cell phone with him, and he was able to call for help. Once the boys had notified their parents of their predicament and that they were unharmed, emergency responders were called and a rescue effort was underway.

According to reports, emergency personnel responded to a call around 7 p.m. of a juvenile who had possibly fallen into the Open Cut. Further investigation revealed that there were two boys and that they had walked into the area.

Bledsoe said that there is an access point to the Open Cut from her property that was likely the way the boys found themselves in the slippery situation.

“Behind my house there’s this hill, and you can go up it and follow a little path to this old wooden barn,” she said. “If you stay to the left of the barn, you can walk right through this field and you’ll be in the open mine area.”

Bledsoe said there were no “No Trespassing” signs or barriers which the boys would had to have climbed in order to get to the mouth of the Open Cut.

Both Morris and Bledsoe said that the most difficult part of the whole experience was not being able to help the rescue efforts.

“We thought, ‘Oh, this might take a couple of hours till they get a couple of people out there and just get down to them,’” Morris said. “Your hands (are) tied, not being able to do anything for your child is pretty frightening in itself.”

“That was really, really hard to just accept that your son’s life is in somebody else’s hands and you have to let that happen,” Bledsoe said.

Bledsoe added that her son has been rappelling since he was 3 years old, and that experience likely contributed to the boys’ responding so calmly to the situation: “From what I hear he did keep his cool very well for being 12 years old. I think having rock-climbing and rappelling experience helped him with that.”

After weather, rough, steep, inaccessible terrain, and darkness had hindered the rescue efforts, emergency responders were able to reach the boys around 3:30 a.m. and the children were reunited with their families around 4 a.m., nine hours after the initial call for help.

The mothers said they’re both just happy their son’s are OK and that rescue responders were able to recover them safely.

“I’m just so glad that fire and rescue did what they did, we’re very much appreciative of them, Bledsoe said. “I was just happy he was OK, there was no way I was going to be mad at him for being a boy and exploring.”

“You want your kids to be able to go outside and play and explore, especially in this day and age when you don’t want them to sit inside and play on games and phones,” Morris said. “Sometimes these things happen and it’s what boys do.”

Both parents said that a major take away from this experience has been to prepare for as much as possible and to remain calm in the face of the unexpected.

“Staying calm can save your life,” Morris said.

“I know that I will never ever ground (my son) from his phone ever again,” Bledsoe added. “Because if he did not have his phone at that time we would not have known anything.”

Approximately 55 people from Lead, Deadwood, and Spearfish fire departments, Lawrence County and Pennington County search and rescue, Lawrence County Emergency Management, Lead Police Department, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the rescue operations. One firefighter received minor injuries during the effort.

Lead Police Chief John Wainman Jr. said the owner of the site, Barrick Gold Corporation, is considering whether to press trespassing charges. Black Hills Pioneer will update this story as it develops.

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